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Eng 101 - Argumentative Essay - the Murder Trial of Emmett Till

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Corneisha Carter

Mrs. Walters- Union Parish High School

English 101

December 8, 2015

Essay #5

The Murder Trial of Emmett Till

        The death of fourteen year old Emmett Till triggered the American civil rights movement and led to a worldwide discussion. In the article, “The Emmett Till Murder Trial,” the author Douglas Linder states Emmett Till went to town with family members; he then asked a female Caucasian worker named Carolyn for some candy that was inside the counter. It is recorded that Till grabbed Carolyn’s hand and told her, “It’s okay; I’ve dated white women before.” Feeling offended, Carolyn went home and told her husband about the incident that occurred in the store. Her husband Roy Bryant and brother in law J.W. Milam decided to kidnap Emmett and teach him a lesson. Instead of just teaching him a harmless lesson, these two men kidnapped, beat, murdered, and dumped his lifeless body into the Tallahatchie River. His body was seen, feet sticking out of the water by a young man who was fishing. The body was identified as fourteen year old Emmett Till. His mother insisted on having an open casket funeral to show what the two men had done to her son. Over 50,000 people came to view the body of Till and were shocked and furious at what they seen. The trial for the murder of Emmett Till was invalid and his family did not get their justice due to the segregations of the court and the jury, the men who beat and murdered Emmett Till deserved to go to jail or face the death penalty for their actions.

        With all the evidence pointing at the two brothers, their trial was underway. There was no doubt that Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam murdered Emmett Till. There was enough evidence given by witnesses and physical evidence to send both men to jail for the rest of their lives. There was one thing though; there was an all Caucasian jury. At the time African Americans were not registered voters and could not serve as a juror. Each of the jurors already had a “fixed opinion” on the case.  During the jury selection, the county sheriff assisted the defense team, advising lawyers as to which the jurors would agree with the defense and also seem safe. The jury had already made their decision before the trial even started. One of the defense attorneys said, “After the jury was chosen, and first-year law student could have won this case” (Linder). The defense team attorney basically was saying after seeing this jury anybody could have won this case if they were white. No matter how much evidence was presented the two men would get away with murder.  The mother of Emmett Till would not get the justice her and her family deserved or get to see her sons murderers put away.

        During the trial, both Bryant and Milam admitted to taking Emmett from his uncles house, but claimed they let him go in Money, Mississippi. There was a surprise witness that places Bryant’s vehicle at the barn. Wille Reed testified that around 6:00 a.m., he had seen Bryant’s truck with four white men riding in the cab and three black men riding in the back of the truck. He told the courtroom, he seen an eighth person, a black boy (presumably Emmett) seated in the bed of the truck. He stated that minutes later he heard “hollering” and “whipping” coming from the barn. In the article “The trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Wilam” by the American Express newsletter, He also said J. W. Milam had come out of the shed, donning a .45 pistol on his hip, and asked Reed whether he had heard anything. Reed told him no. In later interviews, Willis Reed identified the four men he saw entering the barn were Bryant, Milam, and two black men, including Levi “Too Tight” Collins. Even with this information given to the officers, nothing was done to get to the bottom of what really happened to Emmett.  The testimony of Willis Reed was enough to charge Bryant and Milam with kidnapping charges. Milam and Bryant described Emmett as defiant, even during his pistol whipping in the barn. Another piece of evidence presenting during the case was according to the article, “The Emmett Till murder trial” by Douglas Linder, J.W. gave a confession to murdering Emmett Till. Milam clearly stated, “When a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he is tired of living. I’m likely to kill him. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw his poison at me, and I just made up my mind (Linder). This statement was another piece of evidence that proves Bryant and Milam murdered Till. The question that is still unanswered is why these men weren’t sentenced to death.

        Another piece of evidence provided during the case, was from an FBI report given by a witness who saw Bryant and Milam at Milam’s store shortly after they murdered Emmett Till. As the witness noticed the blood dripping from the truck and pointed it out to J.W., he said he killed a deer. After being told it wasn’t deer season, the body was unveiled and Milam stated, “This Is what happens to smart niggers” (Linder).

        In the article by Douglas Linder, the author states Sherriff Strider was a big friend to the defendants, he tried to help Bryant and Milam get out of jail by giving his own statement in the case. That he doubted the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River was that of Emmett Till.  Strider told reporters "the body looked more like that of a grown man instead of a young boy" and had probably been in the river "four or five days"--too long to have been the body of Till, abducted just three days earlier.  Strider expressed his opinion that Till "is still alive."  The theory for a murder defense, with the now obvious support of the County's sheriff, had been laid (Linder).

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